NASA software 'clones' machine parts to predict breakdowns

The breakdown of machine parts always has the potential to create serious problems, whether it be in something like a car, or a piece of equipment such as a telescope. And when it comes to essential moving parts, like those in, say, a helicopter, a failure can put lives at risk. But a new piece of software from the NASA-owned subsidiary Sentient Science offers a solution by "cloning" these parts and predicting breakdowns before they happen.

The software is called DigitalClone, and it combines the physics of a part with how it's used to develop an in-depth understanding of its function and lifespan. By analyzing aspects like friction, wear, and lubrication, the software can predict when something is likely to fail. Sensors are used to confirm this analysis, keeping the "digital twin" incredibly accurate.

Replacing parts before a breakdown is not only easier and cheaper, it also helps to keep machinery from being damaged by failure in the middle of being used. After all, no one wants to be in a helicopter when something breaks during flight.

As you'd expect, NASA says the US military is one of the biggest customers for DigitalClone right now, making use of it in expensive equipment like helicopters and fighter jets. But the software is also helping to analyze things like wind-powered turbines, medical implants, and even the Hubble Space Telescope.